Paul Ince says a strong pre-season could see Alexis Sanchez force his way back into Manchester United’s plans and become their “key man” next year.
The Chilean has spent the 2019/20 season on loan with Inter Milan but has managed just 15 appearances and one goal during his time at the San Siro, meaning it is highly unlikely that the Italian giants will look to offer him a permanent deal.
The 31-year-old will therefore return to Old Trafford at the end of the current campaign, where he still has two years remaining on his contract worth £300,000 a week.
However, it is believed that Sanchez is still not a part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future plans so the Red Devils will attempt to offload him when the transfer window opens.
However, Ince, who played 191 games for United in a six-year spell with the club, says he wouldn’t be surprised to see the former Arsenal forward given a chance should he impress in pre-season training.
“I wouldn’t rule out Sanchez going back to United and being a key part of their team next season. Football is a funny old game”, Ince told Paddy Power.
“I’ve been in the situation as a manager where I’ve thought ‘right, I’m going to get rid of him and him’ but when it comes to it you can’t get the deal done, so they stay at the club.
“Then pre-season comes around and they’re a totally different player to the season before, and they’re your key man the next season. So Sanchez could definitely go back to United, look fantastic in training, and bang suddenly he’s important to their plans after all.”
Having been rated as one of the Premier League’s top players during his time with Arsenal, Sanchez’s reputation has taken a huge knock since leaving the Emirates in January 2018 after failed spells with both United and Inter.
As he enters the twilight years of his career, the ex-Barcelona star’s next move could be crucial if he hopes to end his time as a professional on a positive note and put a disappointing couple of years behind him.
And Ince adds that if he is not able to convince Solskjaer and his staff that he deserves another shot in the team, then a move to a smaller club could be a good option for him.
He said: “This is a make or break summer for Alexis. He’s had two moves in a row that have really not gone well. He’s had two seasons of just not playing. Your career goes by so fast, you can’t waste it like that.
“If someone can get him in and play him in the right position, you’ve still got a great player in there. If that’s West Ham, who can build their team around him, then it’s a great piece of business.
“Wherever he goes, he has to be playing week-in, week-out. Not just to justify his wage, but for his own career.
“And I am certain that he is desperate to play. I’ve watched him a lot, and it was never for a lack of trying that things didn’t work.
“Some players are happy to count their money, but that’s not Sanchez – he plays with determination and passion, he clearly loves playing football.
“I know there’s talk about him being a bit of a loner, but that’s fine – some people are like that – it’s about what happens on the pitch, and you can see he’s always trying the right things when he plays.”